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Thursday, 27 August 2015

45 new peers appointed to the House of Lords

Downing Street has released the list of new peers to be appointed in the 'Dissolution honours list' to the House of Lords. The list includes former Cabinet Ministers from Labour and the Tories and Ministers from the last parliament from both the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. Of the Liberal Democrat appointments Lynne Featherstone and Lorely Burt lost their seats in the House of Commons, Shas Sheehan and Dorothy Thornhill were rejected candidates. 

From the Tory appointments, Anne McIntosh would have been a candidate for the General Election in May but deselected by Thirsk and Malton Conservatives. Douglas Hogg who claimed on his Parliamentary expenses to have his moat cleaned and stood down in 2010 has also been made a Tory peer. Deputy Leader of the Conservative party William Hague who stood down at the last election as been made a peer as has former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Its understood the Liberal Democrat David Laws who had to resign as Chief Secretary to the Treasury over his expenses, while in opposition, had his nomination rejected. But the moat cleaning, expenses claimer, Douglas Hogg was not rejected nor was David Blunkett who had to resign as Home Secretary in 2004 for 'fast tracking' a passport application, denying it and the truth coming out. Mr Blunkett also resigned in 2005 for 'breaking the ministerial code of conduct' over paid work he took while out of the cabinet and didn't consult the parliamentary authorities. 

The majority of Labour's new peers were Cabinet Ministers under Tony Blair.  Two Labour appointments former Treasury Minister Dawn Primarolo and Former Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party Dave Watts have been made peers after standing down at the last election, both missed off the official list. The list of the other 26 Tories, 11 Liberal Democrats and 6 Labour appointments is below: 


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Scottish Government help 84,000 families hit by Iain Duncan Smith's 'bedroom tax'

New figures from Holyrood show that 84,000 families have been helped so far this year by £35m of pubic money has been used by the Scottish Government to provided to support those hit by Iain Duncan Smith's 'spare room subsidy' also known as the 'Bedroom Tax'. Kevin Stewart MSP today welcomed the figures which he points out come just a day after the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, signalled the 'ideological Tory assault on the poor is set to continue with further cuts to support for disabled people.'

Commenting, Kevin Stewart said: "I welcome these new figures showing the Scottish Government has helped 84,000 families hit by Tory Bedroom Tax so far this year. The Scottish Government is providing £35 million to help mitigate against this unfair, deeply unpopular tax. This support – as part of the Scottish Welfare Fund – is helping those hit hardest by the ideological Tory assault on the least well off people in society."

Continuing Mr Stewart said: "This week Iain Duncan Smith has made clear that that he intends to further cut support for disabled people. While the Scottish Government works to support the most vulnerable, the Tories are intent on showing time and time again they cannot be trusted on welfare. This highlights exactly why the Scottish Parliament needs full powers over the welfare state to allow us to support and empower people – rather than pushing more people into poverty like the Tories have done."

"Iain Duncan Smith hides from answering questions Scotland's Parliament – but the sooner he comes here to explain his seemingly unending austerity agenda, which makes life so difficult for so many vulnerable and hard-working Scots, the better." Kevin Stewart added.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Tim Farron urges Mrs May to address the Humanitarian Crisis in Calais

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has written to Theresa May to urge her to address the humanitarian crisis in Calais at her upcoming meeting with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. 

Tim Farron visited the Jules Ferry migrant support centre in Calais earlier this month to meet with refugees and organisations working in the area. He is calling for there to be more support and funding to tackle the lack of water, sanitation and medical supplies in the area.

Mr Farron urged the Government to do more to reunite family members of those who have applied for asylum in the UK who are separated from their loved ones in Calais or elsewhere.  He also welcomed the Government’s steps taken to improve the security at the Eurotunnel,

The full copy of Tim Farron’s letter is below:
Dear Theresa,
I am writing to you about the humanitarian crisis in Calais ahead of your meeting with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later this week.
I welcome the measures the Government has already taken to improve the security situation at the Eurotunnel and reduce the disruption which has been caused for British businesses and holidaymakers, but am writing to ask that the UK do more to ensure that the humanitarian crisis in Calais is properly recognised and addressed.
Having visited the Jules Ferry migrant support centre in Calais and met with organisations working on the ground, it is clear that many of those living in “the jungle” are refugees fleeing war and persecution. The organisations who are currently working to support these very vulnerable people are under extreme pressure. The conditions in Calais fall far short of international standards on the treatment and welfare of refugees. Water and sanitation are all in short supply and medical support stretched beyond capacity. Many are being forced to subsist on the one meal a day that the centre is able to provide. More funding and better coordination are urgently needed, and the UK needs to do more. It is absolutely right that we work together with the French to fund improvements in security at the Eurotunnel and action on people trafficking, but the humanitarian support that is so desperately needed must also be adequately funded.
The terrifying conflicts that have forced so many people to flee their homes have also torn families apart, with mothers separated from sons and daughters, and husbands separated from their wives. This is a horrifying situation which none of us would ever want to find ourselves in. We have a responsibility, under the Dublin Regulation, to do more to help those whose family members are already in the UK. We must work much more closely with the French on this, as well as ensuring that the hundreds of refugees who are claiming asylum in Calais every week are processed as quickly as possible, and treated with the dignity they deserve. I call on you to ensure that these areas are fully addressed in any further agreement with the French this week, and that all further measures recognise and address the humanitarian crisis alongside security issues.
I also ask again that you reconsider your decision that the UK will not opt-in to the European Union Committee's draft proposals on relocation of the most vulnerable migrants from Italy and Greece (COM(2015) 286 final). Over the last few weeks we have seen ever greater tragedies caused by the current migration crisis, with more lives lost in the Mediterranean, the chaos and inhumanity of treatment of desperate migrants reaching the Greek Islands.
It is now more important than ever that the UK is willing to work with our European partners in finding genuine solutions to this humanitarian crisis and offer protection to some of the most vulnerable refugees from the conflict-torn states of Iraq, Eritrea and Syria.
Kind regards,

Tim Farron MP,
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Greens attack ‘boot camp’ plans - Labour supportive

The Green Party has accused the government of waging ‘war on young people’ after ministers unveiled plans to force unemployed young people to attend a three-week ‘boot camp.’ Amelia Womack, the Green Party’s Deputy Leader, has called the plans ‘damaging’ and called for the government to take a longer-term approach to youth unemployment. The scheme which is planned to start in a couple of years will put young people through what Tory ministers are describing as ‘their paces’ with a ‘no excuse culture’. The new regime for all those under 21 who would be entitled to claim Job Seekers Allowance, will mean they now have to attend the boot camp for three weeks or face losing their benefits. .

Commenting Ms Womack said: "This latest announcement is yet another outrageous step in what can only be described as the Conservatives’ war on young people. This move and the rhetoric surrounding it are typical of the government’s approach to unemployment: placing the blame on ‘welfare culture’ and those affected rather than taking real action to tackle the root causes of youth unemployment. Today’s young people are struggling with high rents and low wages, many saddled with tens of thousands of pounds of debt as a result of their ever increasing tuition fees - and rather than supporting them, the government is choosing to cut their benefits, exempt them from the so-called ‘national living wage,’ and place greater and greater demands on those struggling to find work.

Continuing Amelia Womack said: "The measures announced today are a damaging short-termist attempt to bring down unemployment figures by forcing young people into some kind of work or work programme as quickly as possible, rather than recognising the diversity of career paths and the importance of ensuring that young people choose one that is right for them. The government should be taking a much longer-term approach to unemployment: investing in job creation; providing apprenticeships and training to all those who want them; and ensuring that young people are not forced into destitution by the debt, benefit cuts and low wages that risk creating a lost generation."

The tone of the response from Acting Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Timms, was more supportive of the Government's proposal. While criticising the Tory government for their record on youth unemployment, Mr Timms didn't criticise the proposal at all saying the government needed more and better training programmes. Mr Timms said: "After five years of the Tories youth unemployment remains unacceptably high and young people are three times more likely to be out of work than the overall population. We urgently need more and better training to skill young people up, but the government needs to do far more to make sure there are jobs and apprenticeships at the end of it so that these young people can build a future."

Criticising the government's proposal SNP Fair Work and Employment spokesperson, Hannah Bardell said: "Whilst the Tories are happy to use the language of threats and intimidation on the young – often struggling to find work – they watch their pals rake in huge salaries. The Tories' cruel welfare cuts damage those on low incomes, the working poor and vulnerable people. They are happy to push more people into poverty whilst letting the super-rich flourish."

Turning her fire on Labour Hannah Bardell said: "Labour have completely abandoned any pretence of being a party of social justice and progress. By abstaining on the Tories welfare plans they shamefully supported George Osborne's £30 billion more austerity cuts. Only the SNP are providing principled opposition to the Tories at Westminster."

Friday, 14 August 2015

Road closures announced for VJ Day celebrations

Tomorrow will be the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day) in central London. The celebrations will be led by the Ministry of Defence with the Royal British Legion. Events on the day will begin with a special commemoration on Horse Guards Parade attended by senior political and military representatives, veterans and their families.

Following this event, current members of the armed forces will lead veterans and their families in a VJ Parade down Whitehall, past the Cenotaph and the statue of Field Marshal Lord Slim. After the parade, veterans and their families will be hosted at a 70th anniversary reception. There will be a flypast over Horse Guards Parade at 2pm of historic aircraft of the era, including aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

There will be a substantial security operation around the days events which will include a number of road closures around the Whitehall/St James's Park area.

In detail, these are as follows:



6am
  • Horse Guards Road closed 
9am
  • Constitution Hill closed 
  • The Mall closed
  • Marlborough Road closed 
  • Spur Road closed 
  • Birdcage Walk closed 
10am
  • Parliament Street closed 
  • Whitehall closed
  • Great Scotland Yard closed 
  • Whitehall Place closed 
  • Horse Guards Avenue closed 
11am
  • Whitehall closed 
  • Parliament Street closed 
  • Parliament Square closed 
  • Bridge Street closed
  • St Margaret Street closed 
  • Abingdon Street closed 
  • Millbank (north of Horseferry Road) closed 
  • Broad Sanctuary closed 
  • Great Smith Street closed 
  • Victoria Street closed 
  • Tothill Street closed 
  • Great George Street closed
  • Storey's Gate closed 
  • Old Queen Street closed 
  • Carteret Street closed 
  • Dean Farrah Street closed 
  • Dacre Street closed
5pm
  • All roads should be re-opened (subject to change)

Time is up for Right to Buy says Greens

Revelations that Mrs Thatcher's Right to Buy scheme has caused almost 40 per cent of former council homes to be sold on the cheap should lead to the scheme’s end according to the Green Party. But the Tory government intend to press on with extending the Right to Buy to Housing Association Homes.

This was a proposal in October 2013 Kris Hopkins, the then Tory Housing Minister, wrote that Housing Association Homes "have largely been provided with private money and not funded by the public purse and the government does not consider it would be reasonable to require Housing Associations to sell these properties at a discount". Kris Hopkins was the Housing Minister at the time of the general election when the Tories drastically u-turned their policy.

The Green party's call to end the Right to Buy came after Inside Housing magazine revealed today that information released under the Freedom of Information Act by 91 councils in England show “they have sold a total of 127,763 leasehold properties, with 47,994 leaseholders living at another address” giving a “strong indication” the home is being “sub-let”.

The Green Party’s housing spokesperson, Tom Chance said: "We need more social housing, not less, and for them to be treated as a place to live rather than as an investment. There are better ways to give tenants a share of a home's value without losing it to buy-to-let landlords. The government should phase out Right to Buy and explore alternatives like mutual home ownership, which gives people a chance to buy up a stake in their home and sell it back when they move out."

"We need to be providing another 100,000 social rented homes a year so that people on low incomes have some security and affordability." Mr Chance added.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Parisian cycling signs should be replicated in the UK

UK cities should follow Paris’s lead in allowing cyclists to travel through red lights if the way is clear on agreed routes, says the Green Party. Signs, erected this summer, with an upside down triangle, an arrow and a picture of a bicycle, indicate which direction cyclists can travel without stopping at a red light and it is hoped the new rules could reduce “delays and improve safety for cyclists” if introduced in the UK.

Paris’s Green Deputy Mayor, Christophe Najdoski revealed the plans in April in a bid to also speed up cycling journey times across the French capital. The Green Party’s local transport spokesperson, Caroline Russell welcomed the announcement and sees it as an initiative that could be “implemented quickly” in the UK as an interim measure to encourage cycling.

Commenting Cllr Caroline Russell said: "It's great to see Paris so clearly ambitious to get more people travelling by bike. The new rules for cyclists, allowing people to go straight ahead at T junctions or turn right (left in UK) on a red light, if the way is clear and no pedestrians are crossing, will make Paris more bike-friendly."

Cllr Russell continued: "This is not an alternative to redesigning our streets with safe cycle lanes, but it's a great interim measure that can be implemented quickly and so long as everyone is considerate of others, especially those walking, it could make a real difference."

"British cities should follow suit. There are huge benefits to public health from encouraging more journeys by bike. Not only does this reduce congestion, road danger, physical inactivity and air pollution but it also makes our cities better places to live and work." Caroline Russell added,